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IEEE Milestone: The First Transpacific Cable System (TPC-1) in 1964

Friday, November 14th, 2014


IEEE Silicon Valley Technology History committee co-chair Tom Coughlin attended the dedication of an IEEE Milestone in Hawaii for the first Transpacific Cable System (TPC-1) in 1964.


Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:
The first transpacific undersea coaxial telephone cable linking Japan, Hawaii and the U.S. mainland was completed in 1964. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda inaugurated this communications link on 19 June 1964. This joint project involving American Telephone and Telegraph, Hawaiian Telephone Company, and Kokusai Denshin Denwa improved global communication and contributed to deep water submarine cable technologies.

The Transpacific Cable System No.1 “TPC-1” was the first submarine telephone cable connecting North America and Asia with a total length over 10,000km. TPC-1 became operational on 19th June 1964 with the congratulatory speeches of President Lyndon B. Johnson of U.S.A. and Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda of Japan noting the importance of the project for the U.S.A. and Japan. It has contributed to a closer relationship and to the mutual development in culture and economy between U.S.A. and Japan.

TPC-1 was a US$83 Million project, which was jointly constructed by AT&T, HTC and KDD, by applying the state of the art technology (“SD” type cable system design) which was developed by Bell Laboratories of AT&T (following previous SA & SB designs).  It’s deployment was the first step in the rapid development of submarine telephone cable networks in Eastern Asia, providing large communications capacity between Eastern Asia and U.S.A./Europe.

A newly established Japanese company, Ocean Cable Company (OCC), also manufactured some portions of the submarine cable under AT&T’s supervision. TPC-1 was composed of three cable networks; 1) TPC-1 connecting Japan with Hawaii via Guam, Midway and Wake, 2) HAW-1 and HAW-2 connecting Hawaii and the mainland U.S.A. and 3) Guam-Philippines Cable, a branch of TPC-1. TPC-1 was also cross connected at Hawaii with COMPAC, the British Commonwealth cable linking Canada, New Zealand and Australia. TPC-1 and COMPAC formed the Pan Pacific coaxial submarine cable network. TPC-1 began operation in June, 1964, and was followed by joining of Guam-Philippines Cable in December, 1964.

Since then, TPC-1 was in operation more than a quarter century, and will achieve its 50 year anniversary in 2014.The quality of telephone circuits of the longest multi links through TPC-1, land cables on the North American Continent and submarine cables in Atlantic Ocean was proven to satisfy the CCITT (now ITU-T) voice quality recommendations the very first time. The technology developed in the SD type cable covers the implementation of cables undersea. This included machinery on board a cable ship and methodologies of cable laying and repairing, which became the standard going forward.

Extremely high reliability was necessary for the repeaters due to the vacuum electron tubes contained inside, which amplify the transmission signal in tandem. The requirement of high reliability was achieved by means of the quality control developed by Bell Laboratories and proven by the system’s longevity. The quality control methodology used in SD type cable systems was succeeded by the fiber optic submarine cable systems in service today. In addition, it was necessary for TPC-1 to cross the Mariana trench and to be deployed on the complicated features of the sea floor. Ocean floor geologists from U.S.A. and Japan jointly examined the hydrographic survey data obtained by Japanese Oceanography Service and determined a safe and stable cable route in the region. This knowledge established through coordination between the academic field and the business field contributed to the planning of future trans-ocean submarine cable projects.

The technology developed in TPC-1 continues to be the foundation for the construction and maintenance in current fiber optic submarine cables used for international telecommunications today.


More information on this TPC-1 IEEE Milestone is here.

Check the IEEE Silicon Valley Technology History committee website for event notifications/follow-ups and information on other IEEE Milestones.  We will be announcing the details of two RISC milestones – scheduled for Feb 2015- when details become available.

New Information Age Gallery at the London Science Museum

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Information Age tells the story of how information and communication technologies have transformed our lives over the last 200 years. Through a remarkable display of unique and historic objects, the gallery will illuminate our long history of information networks. But this is not just a gallery of technology, it’s a gallery of astonishing stories and incredible people that shows how we have created, used and been affected by each new wave of change.

Objects at the heart of the gallery

Objects form the heart of Information Age. Over 800 objects, of different shapes, sizes and materiality will be displayed in the gallery. Objects act as illustrations of technological change, but also as markers in history and agents of change, transporting visitors to a time and place of use.

The Networks: Six networks that changed our world

Information Age is divided into six content clusters – called ‘networks’. These are not only technological networks, they are networks that bring people together, unite ideas, connect devices and support organisations. These Networks are:

  • The Cable – telegraphy

Looks at the speed and growth of the electric telegraph network from the 1830s and features stories of pioneering adventures, charismatic characters, dramatic races and discovery.

  • The Exchange – telephony

Brings the power of the human voice to our visitors to illustrate the democratisation of the telephone and its effectiveness as a tool of social change.

  • The Broadcast – radio and television

Reveals how the ability to transmit the same message to millions of people at the same time has transformed news and entertainment.

  • The Constellation – satellite communication

Bridges the mystery and ubiquity of the satellite; making links between the familiarity of the satellite’s services and the – quite literal – remoteness of its operation and orbit.

  • The Web – computer networks

Exposes the quantity of information and data people share, from a point where computers stand alone, to the moment they begin to reveal their networks.

  • The Cell – mobile communications

Looks at the influence mobile phones have had on our lives, from their earliest days as an expensive, showy gadget to today when they form an essential part of many peoples’ daily routine across the world.

The Stories: twenty-one transforming events

Each network contains three or four Transforming Events; discrete historical moments which illustrate the significance of a network to users’ lives. An event could be a major technological development (such as the first patent for a telephone), one with mass impact (such as the first moment that Britain came together to watch television), or reveal major social change (such as the shift from women operating manual exchanges to mechanical devices).

A participatory gallery

A key part to the creation and ongoing development of the gallery is audience and visitor participation. During the gallery build, innovative public participation projects have uncovered the personal stories that will help shape development of the gallery and bring each of the six networks to life.

Gordon Bell: Information on the old The Computer Museum in Boston, MA

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Note:  This blog post was authored by Gordon Bell and edited by Alan J Weissberger.

The Computer Museum website is a place to view all the extensive material of The Computer Museum (which was relocated to Mt. View, CA in 116/97), whereby one can go immediately to an exhibit, event, etc. and 350+ files (10K pages) of computer history.

For the nostalgic visitor or historian, downloading the Museum Reports, 1979-1988 and Annual Reports 1988-1998 describe the events from the opening in 1975 at Digital and in Marlborough MA, though the museum’s move to Boston and eventually to Mountain View’s Moffett Field, CA. It is a work in progress that will continue to evolve and hopefully attract more content. However with all the files and publications, the files are valuable reference. 

The website is a living cyber museum providing accessibility to all aspects of The Computer Museum (c1979-2000) to the extent content was preserved.

Ideally, a visitor can walk along the timeline as a guide  to:

·         View and attend a lecture e.g. the first ones by JV Atanasoff, the inventor of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer

Or hear what the first useful stored program computer was and how it was programmed by Prof. Maurice V. Wilkes, of Cambridge U.  Or listen to Bob Noyce explain the first integrated circuit invention at the opening of TCM, Boston in  xxs, 1984.  Or a talk by me on The Computer Pioneers…

·         Replay or recall  the East-West Computer Bowls over their 10 year history.

View all the book of questions from this 1988-98 era when the web was born.

·         Visit the various exhibits

The large scale walk-through computer can be revisited with a guide Computer Chronicles toured TCM, Marlboro, MA in 1983

·         Marketing Material  is where you can download various press kits about  openings, store catalogs, and especially about 100 posters of pioneer lectures, the Computer Bowl, and Historical/Taxonomic trees.

·         The Museum Catalog (namely what are the museum’s holdings) as a publication.  Ed Thelen scanned the original  A Museum Catalog is itself an artifact of 20th century museums before search. The catalog was eventually published in the Reports (see 400 page compendium of all the reports xxx)

·         View all  the documents that described the Museum in roughly 350 scanned files: Reports, Annual Reports, posters announcing the lectures and pioneers, store catalogs, Timeline Posters and Product Trees, flyers, awards, PR releases, and more.

·         Backroom look at artifacts

·         Back Office working files used for design etc. All the available scanned  files including deliberation and sounds of gnashing of the teeth especially all the correspondence of Gordon Bell asking for support   Note some of the 30+ year ago, 1984 Asks (Begs( include Brook Byers, Ed DeCastro, Bill Gates, Bernie Gordon, Regis McKenna, Heinz Nixdorf Max Palevsky, Tom Perkins, Bill Perry, John Pierce, Ben Rosen, Al Shughart and many more.

·         Governance files of BOD, etc. especially later ones from Gardner Hendrie’s period as Chairman that he had retained.

·         A BLOG (TBD) Participate in a blog e.g. comments by former board members, comments re. particular artifacts, talks, etc.

The timeline is a nice  way to visit the TCM.

Note the 1000 x 15,000 pixels timeline on the site chronicling events and exhibits.

The goals is to be able to traverse it and to see and hear content of those days. You have to look at the items and then use some imagination but eventually all will be hot linked to something interesting to see/hear! We will be experimenting with wider, deeper, and different timelines—this one was events that were rendered from XLSX.

The Computer Museum, Boston on Wikipedia has the story of TCM.  Oliver Strimpel used archived items and made a really complete and compelling story Wikipedia.


A site search is still needed that will reveal the documents if you know a name or phrase. Also crawlers need a way to find it and its content. CHM will post a few links to enable the TCM part of the museum to be found (l think we can say/prove the museum will be 40 years old next year).

The site is beginning to fulfil a view of a Cyber Museum  being a dusty place that you might want to visit because you once visited it in physical space and want to see it again or get an artifact..

The particular joy of this site is that it is an experiment… so if you have something that you believe someone else associated with TCM will want, we’ll host it.


Computer History Museum: Celebrating 35 Years: Sept 26,2014

London Science Museum

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

The London Science Museum is opening its new Information Age Gallery on 24th October  2014 in the presence of  the Queen and Prince Phillip.


Computer History Museum: Celebrating 35 Years: Sept 26,2014

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014


The Computer History Museum (CHM) marked its 35th birthday on September 24, 2014. Visitors from around the world see an impressive set of exhibits, artifacts and come for the conversations, panel sessions and lectures.   One such panel took place on Sept 26th, with CHM co-founders Gordon Bell (Marlboro, MA 1975) and Len Shustek (Mt View, CA in 1996) presenting the museums history.  The panel was moderated by the indefatigable John Hollar, CHM CEO & President.

The CHM timeline can be viewed here.

Early History in MA by Gordon Bell:

The Museum has come a long way from a coat closet in Massachusetts to the beautiful multi-building permanent facility that today houses engaging exhibits and the largest collection of computing artifacts in the world.  Indeed, the first exhibit was in a converted closet at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) Building 12 in Maynard, MA.

In 1979 it officially became an exhibition site operated by DEC in Marlboro, MA.   It was then called the Digital Computer Museum (DCM).

Gordon’s wife Gwen, compiled the first catalog for the museum in 1981.  It listed all the museums collected artifacts.  Important acquisitions included:  the CDC 6600 mainframe computer, ENIGMA machine (used to encipher and decipher secret messages), pre-computer era artifacts like old giant calculators.  Referring to the catalog, Gordon Bell said,  “there was a collage of stuff we thought was in there (the museum).” He estimated ~ 150 artifacts had been collected at the DCM.

“We had a very good relationship with IBM,” Mr. Bell said.  “They had a lot of collections,” he added.  One of the most impressive ones was core memory, which became the DCMs “symbol.”

in 1982. the DCM incorporated as The Computer Museum (TCM)  which moved to Boston in 1984, located on Museum Wharf.

The museum ran a “Computer Bowl” which was an East-West contest for the best exhibits.  “Sort of like a college football bowl,” Gordon said.  The West won most of those contests- about 10 in all.

The museum published a book on The Best Software for Kids which was very popular.  Over time, the museum evolved into a children or teenager museum for learning about the history of computing.

Gordon showed a museum produced poster chronicling  the first 25 years of the microprocessor evolution.

Author’s Note: That must’ve been in the Fall of 1996, as the first commercially available microprocessor -the Intel 4004- was introduced in Fall of 1971.

Post 1996 History by Len Shustek:

Len vaguely knew of The History Museum in Boston in 1994-95 when he taught a computer class at Stanford (Len has a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford and MS, BS degrees in Physics from Brooklyn PolyTech).  He was surprised to find that computer history had been taken out of the course syllabus.  That was a shame.  He thought at the time:  “There’s a history Computer Science students should know about and appreciate.”

Therefore, Len started writing white papers and began exploring how to start a computer history museum on the west coast, preferably in the SF Bay area where he lived.  After extensive research, he was surprised to find that the only computer museum in the world was the one in Boston, MA.   Len met with Gordon Bell who suggested he be on the Board of Directors of TCM so he could “re-invent it” from a kids museum to one that adults could also appreciate.

During a period that spanned parts of 1996 and 1997,  TCM’s back room collection was relocated to Moffett Field (Mt View, CA).  It was housed in a building provided by NASA that was previously the Naval Base furniture store.  With Gwen’s help, a large number of artifacts were shipped from Boston to Moffet Field where they were stored in dirigible hangers.  Len got a “fork lift drivers license” to move the boxes around, but he never needed to do that.  Thank goodness!

A 1996 catalog only included 25% of the contents of the boxes that had been shipped. The first exhibit was visible storage.  Getting museum visitors was a challenge at Moffet Field.  A SF Examiner article referred to the museum as a “visible storage warehouse.”

Len and others thought that the museum should be housed outside of Moffet Field, even though NASA had planned to give two acres of land for a newly built CHM.  But NASA moved too slow to progress that plan.

In the aftermath of the dotcom bust in 2000-2001, there was lots of silicon valley real estate available at affordable prices, including the Silicon Graphics building where the museum is now located.   The CHM needed to borrow $25M in Oct 2002, hoping that future fund raising would help pay the loan off.  (In fact, most of the $25K has been paid off with interest).

In 2003, CHM opened its new building (previously occupied by Silicon Graphics), at 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd in Mt View, CA.   There’s seven acres of land and lots of parking spaces (although all may be taken for well attended events).

The CHM curators created Visible Storage v2.0 (earlier versions were in TCM in Boston as well as the computer museum at Moffet Field).  It was a great exhibit and talking tool which helped with fund raising.

In 2008, the CHM reinstituted the Fellows award which became quite popular. That same year, the museum ran out of space to hold all its artifacts.  So it bought a warehouse in Milpitas which is used to hold various artifacts, supplies and temporary exhibits.

Author’s Note:

Len didn’t get nearly as much air time as Gordon Bell during the 1 hour talk.  He wasn’t able to explain how he and his colleagues were able to transform the small museum at Moffet Field into the existing CHMs stellar collection of artifacts and world class exhibits as well as the very popular “conversations” and panel sessions.


Opportunity to Learn More:  Oct 9th IEEE meeting in Santa Clara, CA.

IEEE SV History Oct 9th meeting: Origins & History of the Computer History Museum
Given the importance of computers to our civilization, why are there so few museums dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history of the Information Age?  The Computer History Museum  (CHM) is the world’s leading institution exploring the history of computing and its ongoing impact on society.
In 2014 the museum celebrates its 35th anniversary, dated from its roots as The Computer Museum in Boston in 1979. Come hear its two leaders, the Chairman of the Board (Len Shustek) and the President/CEO (John Hollar), describe the joys, frustrations, and ultimate success of that odyssey.  

There are several interesting CHM stories that will be told for the first time, which will surely captivate the audience.  You’ll also get to learn about the professional lives of Len and John along with their passion and motivation for the history of computing.  That should be very interesting, informative and entertaining.

More information including bio’s and registration link is available here.